In my world, I regularly hear about how to keep health care affordable, especially health insurance. My audience talks about it. Families struggling to make ends meet talk about it, too. That’s why a bill being considered in the North Dakota Legislature, HB 1416, caught my interest.
The verbiage from the bill says it’s “a bill relating to freedom of choice for health care services.” And it was repeated: “Be it enacted by the legislative assembly of North Dakota… freedom of choice for health care services.” That’s the fancy description. For me, it’s exactly the opposite. It’s removing a choice that allows consumers to save money on health insurance. That is a bad idea.
HB 1416 would allow any health care provider to join an insurance company’s narrow network, which is an important health insurance option for cost-conscious consumers who choose to see fewer providers but pay a significantly lower monthly bill.
Proponents — who have peddled their opinions on the editorial pages — have claimed this legislation will provide “freedom of choice for health care services,” allowing patients more choice when selecting their health care providers. That’s just wrong. In reality, patients already make that choice when they select their health insurance plan. What HB 1416 does is the opposite of choice; it eliminates an affordable health insurance option.
Health insurance companies use different networks, or groups of health care providers, to give consumers options. A broad network plan consists of nearly all providers within a service area. These plans are more expensive. A narrow network plan, however, consists of fewer providers who have agreed to a reduced contracted rate in exchange for an anticipated increase in patient volume. These plans are about 20% more affordable than broad network plans. Yes, 20%!
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